5 Tips for Healthy Thyroid Function

By Dr. Leslie Vilensky

So you say you’ve had your thyroid checked and your lab tests look normal but you have many of the symptoms of a thyroid disorder:

  • Low energy

  • Constipation

  • Depression

  • Dry skin

  • Difficulty Losing Weight

  • Menstrual Irregularities

  • Difficulties getting pregnant

  • Sensitivity to cold

Millions of people who suffer from a thyroid imbalance never get the proper diagnosis.  Why?  Because thyroid dysfunction is often overlooked with testing that typically doesn’t go beyond a simple TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) measurement.  While this is often considered the standard and adequate parameter for screening for thyroid dysfunction, it’s not enough.

Naturopathic doctors evaluate thyroid function with a more comprehensive list of lab tests beyond just the TSH, including Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3 and Thyroid Antibodies.  These tests allow ND’s to support thyroid function before the imbalance becomes severe. A naturopathic approach might also include looking for and treating other related issues such as adrenal fatigue, nutritional deficiencies, toxicity, chronic stress and food intolerances.  

Here are 5 tips to support healthy thyroid function:

1. Eat a balanced, whole-foods diet.  This will help ensure intake of these nutrients such as selenium, iodine, zinc and Vitamin D – all vital to healthy thyroid function. Your naturopathic doctor can help you figure out if supplementation is necessary if you aren’t getting what you need from whole foods. 

2. But don’t eat too much of certain foods. Excessive consumption of some foods, though, can contribute to or induce low thyroid function.  These are known as goitrogens and include things like cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, mustard, soy, and root vegetables like rutabagas and turnips.  

3. A case of mistaken identity.  Rule out food sensitivities. Foods containing dairy and gluten can cross-react with tissues in the body, like the thyroid gland, and result in an autoimmune reaction that disrupts healthy thyroid function. 

4. Take stress seriously. Low thyroid function is often triggered after a significant life trauma or stressor that may disrupt healthy thyroid hormone production. High stress situations have been shown to lower the conversion of less active thyroid hormone (Free T4) to the more active Free T3, again impacting optimal thyroid function.

5.  Avoid toxic metals.  Exposure to toxic metals, like cadmium, mercury and lead, can alter thyroid hormone metabolism. Your naturopathic doctor can help rule out and treat underlying heavy metal burden. 

Sometimes healthy thyroid function can be recovered and restored with natural support through good diet, herbs, supplements and stress reduction.  Other times, medications are needed for long-term support.  Your naturopathic doctor can work collaboratively with your primary care doctor or endocrinologist to help support your optimal thyroid health.